The famous preacher and theologian Don Carson has been in Perth this week and on Tuesday night, along with more than 1000 other people, I heard him speak. I know some others from our community have also had the opportunity to hear him at one or more of the events he’s spoken at during the week.
On Tuesday night, he started his talk with a cheery statement: “If you live long enough, you’ll get kicked in the teeth.” He then proceeded to open up Psalm 40 with us, sharing openly from experiences in his own and others’ lives as he did. He explained that Psalm 40 has two main ideas: David’s joyful praise to God who saves him from the “mud and mire” and a recognition that deliverance from the difficulties doesn’t always happen, and a cry to God for help in those times.
As Don spoke to us about this Psalm, I pondered a few things.
I pondered whether those of us who have experienced God’s deliverance give testimony to that; also, how and when we do it. One of Don’s statements struck me: “Witnessing to the goodness of God is normal Christianity. Anything less is sub-normal.” Are our lives marked by speaking of the goodness of God, or more marked by speaking of the daily (and often very real) struggles of life? I’m not in any way questioning the importance of sharing the realities of our lives with others; rather, I am wondering whether we ensure that we turn our eyes to God in that. Yep, “Where’s our focus?” (for those who heard my sermon last week); and whether we witness to the daily reality of God’s goodness in our lives. Of course, this has more power as it’s connected to the very real issues in our lives. As Don commented, “The testimony of a life that has suffered is often more powerful than cerebral answers.” I wouldn’t be our Families Minister if my ears didn’t prick up at Don speaking about how that’s not important just because it’s honouring to God but also because it’s vital for forming the next generation in faith.
Giving testimony to the goodness of God and telling of seeking his help in the daily realities of life forms all of the people we are around, not least those children and young people in our lives. Often we thank God and seek his help privately, which is great. But how much more are we forming each other when we reveal to each other the need for God in our lives and how we have experienced his goodness. This week I heard someone who is in significant physical pain speak of how helpful it was to hear another one of our community share what a difference it makes to them when they give praise to God in the midst of their pain. That was a great example of how the testimony of one person in the midst of the very real struggles of their life can encourage and strengthen another in faith.
I’ve been challenged now to witness more often to the goodness of God in my life. I wonder where you might have the opportunity to do that this week. As well, I’m excited by the potential impact – on each other, our children and the world around us – of us all living more fully in this way that is “normal Christianity”.